‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’: A Weekend of Protests in Milwaukee

Anger toward police continues for third straight day with protests, scattered property damage.

Protesters took to the streets of Milwaukee for a third consecutive day on Sunday, as emotions continued to boil over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier in the week and the state of policing in America.

Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pinned his knee to the neck of Floyd, who was unarmed and handcuffed, for nearly nine minutes. Onlookers captured the incident on video, which led to Chauvin being taken into custody and subsequently charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

A protest organized by faith leaders on Sunday afternoon on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Photo by Edwin Gonzalez

Sunday in Milwaukee began with a march near the District 5 Police Station on West Locust Street organized by several local church leaders. A prayer vigil later in the afternoon at Washington Park drew a reported crowd of about 300 people.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters marched at Red Arrow Park in the heart of Downtown on Sunday afternoon. The park is the site where Dontre Hamilton was killed after being shot 15 times by on-duty Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney in 2014.

Police form a line outside the District 1 station and municipal court building on Sunday afternoon. Photo by Rich Rovito

Some tense moments followed as many in the crowd, some on foot and other in their cars, made their way to the District 1 Police Station, the Milwaukee department’s home base, where they confronted dozens of police officers in riot gear who stood shoulder-to-shoulder guarding the building, which also houses the City of Milwaukee Municipal Court.

Dressed in dark uniforms and wearing helmets with face shields, many of the officers stood motionless, clutching batons, as protesters pushed closer, some chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” while raising their arms. The crowd eventually dispersed shortly after another phalanx of officers marched onto the scene in military fashion.

A protester Sunday in Milwaukee. Photo by Rich Rovito

Protesters then continued to weave their way through the city well into the night, making stops in Riverwest and the East Side, ignoring a 9 p.m. curfew – a violation that carries a $691 fine – that had been put in place for a second straight night in Milwaukee and some suburbs.

As in cities across the country, property damage has followed in the wake of some of the protests.

Video on Monday morning showed damage to businesses on North Oakland Avenue in Milwaukee, including Urban Vape and CBD, which had windows smashed. On the Northwest Side, Value Beauty Supply on North Teutonia Avenue sustained major damage after windows were smashed and the store was looted.

MPD tweeted late Sunday night that several arrests for curfew violations had been made and that vehicles belonging to protesters had been towed.

Early on Sunday morning, Minneapolis-based retailer Target said in a press release it would temporarily close more than 100 stores due to the situation, including stores in Bay View and West Milwaukee. Later in the day, Target amended its announcement to say it would close just six stores, none in the Milwaukee area. A Target store in Minneapolis, near where Floyd was killed, was looted and heavily damaged in riots following protests there.

Protests in Milwaukee began on Friday with a series of peaceful gatherings in the afternoon, beginning with an event that drew a crowd of several hundred to the Metcalfe Park neighborhood. The group that had gathered there later marched to the police station and county courthouse Downtown. Protests continued into the night on the South, East and North sides.

A Boost Mobile store on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was boarded up Sunday after being looted early Saturday. Photo by Rich Rovito

There were reports after midnight of tear gas being used as protesters surrounded MPD’s District 5 police station in the Harambee neighborhood. Several businesses in the area sustained significant property damage and were looted, including a Walgreens pharmacy on North Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and a Boost Mobile business across the street. Both had been boarded up by Sunday and were temporarily closed for business due to the damage. A hand-written “Black Lives Matters” sign was taped to the front door of the Boost Mobile store.

Milwaukee Police reported that 50 people were arrested on Friday night and 10 more on Saturday.

Late Saturday afternoon, hundreds of protesters peacefully congregated in front of the Washington Heights home of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. A heavy presence of Milwaukee police officers and Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputies could be seen in the neighborhood, located near Washington Park.

A few uprisings on Saturday night on the city’s North Side left shattered glass and debris in the street near North 35th Street and West Burleigh Street. The windows of a nearby Boost Mobile store were being boarded up Sunday afternoon, and boards already had been placed over the windows of neighboring Reynold’s Pasty Shop.

 

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.